Granderson: City council members’ recording isn’t just offensive. It’s also illuminating.
It is no secret that council members are sensitive to their role in public life, and as a result, they often find themselves in the spotlight. There are few political careers in which a politician’s public record is not a central consideration. Public scrutiny of a council member’s ethics or performance can expose the person’s leadership for the shortcomings of an incompetent or lazy public servant. The public also has a right to know what that person is thinking.
For example, on April 16, 2007, three members of the City Council — Dan Mavrakos, Dan Boren, and Bob Foster — voted to release a recording of a closed-door meeting with residents, according to information gathered by the Times-Union. In the recording, Councilwoman Mavrakos, who is black, and Councilman Boren, who is white, berated the residents of one of the city’s majority-minority neighborhoods.
At one point, according to the recording, Mavrakos tells another black council member, “This will be the last time I’m going to sit here and vote against a black person.”
Council Chairman Boren told the Times-Union that he was forced to release the recording after complaints from the community.
“If it is out there and we could have a community forum on this, then fine,” Boren said. “But I don’t see the point of releasing it now.”
As city council members often note, the recording was not just embarrassing — it revealed a significant rift between black and white residents of the city. The recording revealed the City Council’s inability to address race in City Hall, a situation of “systemic dysfunction,” according to Boren.
“This is an opportunity we should take,” he added. “There are some things that I see we’re not as well equipped to tackle as we’d like to be.”
In the recording, Mavrakos, Boren, and Foster can be heard addressing racial tensions and discussing racial profiling, which are common themes in the media and public discussions about police shootings. Mavrakos tells Foster, “You do